self-esteem vs. self-acceptance

Old 08-25-2007, 04:05 AM
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self-esteem vs. self-acceptance

Hi everyone,
haven’t posted in quite a long time, but I still lurk and read a lot. And something Alera (thanks A!) posted yesterday made me go and check out the Smart site, where I found an interesting article about why the idea of self-esteem is not always a good way to think about oneself, and an idea of “self-acceptance” might be a better one.


It’s an intelligent and thought-provoking article. This passage, among others, seemed to describe something very familiar…

“The widely accepted but dangerous view of self-esteem illustrates its inherent traps. If you subscribe to his self-esteem notion, when you do well you'll tend to take an overblown, grandiose view of your self. And when you do poorly you're likely to feel depressed and hopeless. Many people who pursue this approach live their lives either anxiously and compulsively striving to prove themselves (instead of enjoying themselves by striving to attain their goals) or phobically avoiding challenging and competitive situations.”

This idea of self-acceptance also seems a good way for secular and non-secular alcoholics to find a useful point in common. It seems very close to what some in Alcoholics Anonymous would describe as “letting go” or “acceptance” or “handing things over.”

It’s been very quiet on this board lately. I hope all the usual and all the new posters are doing OK. The last few weeks have been tough for me – somehow a whole lot of resentments and bitterness and anxiety seemed to cloud up my mind sometimes. I’m a long way from serenity, and I don’t know if I’m getting any closer all that quickly. But I didn’t pick up a drink, didn’t even come close, and thank god for that, says this old atheist…

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Old 08-26-2007, 11:04 AM
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that was very interesting. confusing, too.

i think the problem isnt self esteem itself, but rather the 'assumed' definition of it. people use the worrds 'self-esteem' collaboratively with the words 'high' and 'low', which automatically assumes judgment calls. i find it much more beneficial to just use the words self-esteem to describe more or less where i am in my PROGRESS or GROWTH in that area. because it became the norm to say something to the effect, "all my life i had low self-esteem', that is now the way its understanding has been passed down through the generations, per se.

the 'puffed-up' notion of self esteem is nothing more than a false pride i would tend to think. one extreme is pride, the other self-loathing; both are detrimental to our well-being. using the coined term self-esteem to describe how we rate our performance is the problem. i wonder how they became linked together in the first place? i never thought self-esteem had to do with performance. i moreso related to the 'authentic and in-authentic' paragraph, as well as the 'invisible self esteem' paragraph. i must wholeheartedly agree however with the overall notion the artcile is trying to present, and that is that so good feelings about ourselves should stem from rating our performance, whether as individuals, or suscepting ourselves to being measured by the worlds view.

the way i leanred it in counseling, is that it is ok to tell ourselves that we did a good job at something. feeling a sense of goal-meeting and accmplishment is healthy; we feel a sense of purpose carrying out our intended 'giftedness', which i am convinced each of us has special 'gifts' to share. translating our passions of our hearts, minds, and souls into a tangible goal or instrument for others to enjoy is a good thing, IMO. likewise, it is also ok to tell ourselves we 'fell short'. we were late, we missed a deadline, we choose to not fulfill reponsibilities. in doing this, it is imperative we dont judge ourselves. we merely are RECOGNIZING we fell short, resist the shame cycle that leads to either false pride or self loathing (both extremes), and put into effect a plan, a phone call, or whatever we need to do to take care of ourselves. not punish ourselves. but take care of ourselves. i mean we can feel disappointed without labeling ourselves a loser. IMO its all in the way we look at our failures-from what perspective? one fo resorting to 'take care of ourselves' (a positive way to look at it )or 'punish ourselves' (negative way to look at it). conversely, when looking at our acievements, we can resist the temptation to get grandiose with it, egocentric or filled with pride. we can acknowledge that we did well, and that that 'doing well' probably had something to do with effort put forth, and it is ok IMO to be proud of ourselves in that way. thats why things like completing homework, doing chores, and helping others less fortunate is good for helps create good character and stability. but not a focal point for measuring ourselves.

i must say i very much agree though with the concept of self-acceptance. my counselor had me do self-affirmations where i had to tell myself things good about me in the mirror. these sayings did not 'puff me up', but instead became internalized and eventually i 'realized' my self worth. it actually helped STOP my measuring of myself, not encourage it.

so, my opinion is that the whole definition of self-esteem is just twisted. self esteem and self acceptance and the usage of these words seems like mere word play. it isnt the word itself that is poison, but what philosophy lies behind it, and which one you will subscribe to. i guess once you know that puffing oneself up is wrong and futile, therein lies the answer to the road to health. some days i call that good self-esteem, some days i call it self-acceptance.

im sure others depending on their experiences will have a completely different take or different understanding......always nice to hear.
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:02 AM
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i just wanted to add that the overall temperature of that article, i agree with. self-acceptance is the way to go. i just wasnt aware that self-esteem was definitionally so misunderstood by people, but i WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that the performance cycle is full of shame, and severly harms people.
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Old 08-27-2007, 11:22 AM
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Good to read you nolonger!

I agree with this article. I have been busy at school and let me tell you I see this Self-Esteem incorporated into the studies. I am seeing a lot of this:

The teacher who tries to cultivate high self-esteem in her students usually does not say: "Feel good, no matter how badly you do!" Instead, the teacher deliberately lowers standards, so that the students get lots of praise for very minor achievements, while poor or mediocre work is accepted as adequate or better. And the proponents of earned self-esteem, when they confront the fact that many individuals make themselves needlessly miserable by comparing their performance to some ideal, also advise those individuals to lower their standards, so that they will feel better at a lower threshold of achievement.
I went to wikipedia and there were references for the problems of too much self-esteem= hubris as well as the problems this curriculum may cause in the classroom.
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